GREEN BAY – Brett Hundley said it himself this week.
“I don’t want to be on this up-and-down roller coaster,” the Packers quarterback said during his regular Wednesday media session at his locker.
For full context, Hundley was referring specifically to his desire to keep things regimented and routine with his preparation each week. He doesn’t want to react one way or another to the results in a way that changes his work habits.
But the comment applies just as much to the results themselves.
The first word out of quarterbacks coach Alex Van Pelt’s mouth when asked what he needs to see from Hundley this week: consistency. The ups and downs are to be expected for any young quarterback, but now a handful of starts in, the road needs to start getting smoother.
The education Hundley has received in the life of an NFL quarterback to this point has been extensive. It’s also never-ending.
He had a victory and impressive fourth quarter to build upon from Chicago, but he bottomed out. He recovered from a four-turnover shutout against Baltimore with a strong outing against one of the league’s top defenses in Pittsburgh, throwing three TD passes without a giveaway.
Now he has to rebound from a heartbreaking defeat while trying, for the second time, to carry a very positive performance forward. It’s another new set of circumstances he must process, and from which he must proceed.
Interestingly, Head Coach Mike McCarthy this week expressed little surprise that Hundley bounced back the way he did in Pittsburgh. As McCarthy said from the first day he got the head job in Green Bay, handling success is always the tougher task.
“You have to handle the highs,” McCarthy said. “I don’t really concern myself when players go through a low, because you’re talking about the character of a National Football League football player. These guys are going to respond, they’re always going to respond to challenges. That’s just part of who they are.”
McCarthy referenced “pushing the envelope a little bit” after the Chicago win and Hundley “getting himself in trouble” against Baltimore with the early interceptions. The bad start derailed a very winnable game for the Packers, but presumably now the lessons have been learned.
“I thought he did a great job in how he responded, playing against Pittsburgh,” McCarthy said. “We just have to keep moving forward. He has more to give, and we need it.”
If there’s an opportunity for Hundley to establish a rhythm early and maintain it throughout the course of a game, Sunday should be it. The Buccaneers rank last in the league in pass defense and have just 15 sacks in 11 games.
Hundley should have chances to make some plays, and he talked about the value of hitting on a couple of deep balls against the Steelers, giving opposing defenses more to respect about Green Bay’s offense.
It all ties together, and the prospects for the offense certainly look promising. But given what happened two weeks ago at home against the Ravens, no one should be making any assumptions.
“It’s one of those things – you can take your foot off the pedal and think you can go out there and just roll the ball out, but it won’t happen,” receiver Jordy Nelson said. “It never does in this league. We have to go out and execute, and if we do that we’ll be in a position to put points up.”
Looking at how the Chicago and Pittsburgh games went, and even the New Orleans game in his first start to some extent, the ultimate evaluation for Hundley came in the fourth quarter.
Against the Saints, the offense got nothing done at crunch time. Against the Bears, it made the plays and won the game. Against the Steelers, a clutch game-tying drive was followed by a first-down sack that ruined the Packers’ chance to win.
“You start realizing that football comes down to five or six plays, and a loss like that in Pittsburgh, it came down to really five or six plays,” Hundley said. “It gives us the confidence if we change those five or six, it’s a different story.”
Even changing just two or three could smooth things out and get Hundley off the roller coaster. The Packers’ season depends on it.